«1979 1979-1980 1980 »

The rundown of production of the heavy end at Shotton begins in mid December with the “blowing out” of the No.1 blast furnace and the last iron and steel is made on 22nd December. The plan was to operate five of the 12 open hearth furnaces in the No. 3 steelworks until February and in the hope of an early end to the strike, the other blast furnace was kept in a warm condition. But in mid February 1980, with no end to the dispute in sight, re-commissioning of the furnaces was finally ruled out. Thus open hearth steelmaking, a process invented by Siemens in the 1860s, ended not only on Deeside but in Britain without ceremony.

The No. 1 blast furnace had produced over 11 millions tonnes in its life and No.2 furnace, nearly 10 million tonnes. Because of restrictions on the amount of hot metal required by the melting shop, they never operated to their potential and the best combined output of hot metal for a week was 25,333 tonnes in May 1973. The 2m.tonne target set for the No.3 Steelworks was never reached. The highest output of 1,542,000 ingot tons was recorded in 1965 when the weekly record was raised to 36,000 tons.

Hot rolling ends

The hot rolling mills, scheduled for closure at the end of March 1980, are kept going for another two months to process 85,000 tonnes of slabs in stock at the end of the national steel strike. Hooters sound as the last slab drops from the reheat furnace for rolling into plate and strip by the two roughing mills and seven-stand finishing train on 23rd May, to mark the end of hot rolling. There are visible signs of emotion among hundreds of onlookers, just as there had been when the first slab passed through the mill in November 1939. Some two million miles of strip weighing 35 million tonnes have been produced in the forty years since.

Only the relatively new coke ovens remain in production at the heavy end, operating as a merchant plant in supplying gas to the remainder of the works and making coke for sale to other steel plants.

With the industry still in recession, agreement is reached at Shotton in June on a slim-line business plan for the on-going cold strip mill and coating departments. A new plant configuration is based on processing between 10,000-12,500 tonnes of hot rolled coil a week in 1980/81 to see the works through to better times. The workforce is further reduced from 4,200 to 3,300 and short-time working is introduced.

A model campaign

The workers’ action committee which had fought for the retention of iron and steelmaking at the works since 1972 is formally disbanded. Probably the longest campaign in British industry had been successful to the extent that Government decisions were reversed on two occasions, with BSC withdrawing its closure proposal totally at one time.

The Shotton campaign is regarded by politicians, trades unionists and others as a model. By peaceful demonstration, reasoned arguments and persuasion, the men and women of Shotton won support and sympathy at the highest level in government.

Sound deadened steel developed

A new product, sound-deadened steel, comprising a visco-elastic core sandwiched between sheets of Zintec electro galvanised steel, is developed under the control of the Shotwick Laboratories at Shotton Works. Some 300 tonnes are currently being produced annually on a development basis and BSC are investigating the full commercial potential of the product.

Product development closure

BSC’s Strip Development Department closed at Shotwick closes in March with the loss of 90 jobs. The adjacent Shotwick Laboratories, part of Corporate Research and Development into research and development into applications for coated steel, remain open. The Shotwick Laboratory was originally built in the 1950s by another steel company, Stewart and Lloyd following an agreement with John Summers and Sons to supply them with hot rolled strip for tube making for the oil industry. The enterprise would have meant an increase of 4,000 tonnes a week in steel production at Shotton but the market for tubes did not materialise. The buildings were taken over by Summers and used for process and product development.

In October 1980 Shotton Works becomes part of the new Strip Products Group of BSC.

New coatings company

Mixalloy Ltd, a company formed by six former Shotton steel managers, sign an agreement with BSC to convert metal powder into strip. The process, pioneered by the Corporation, has been found to be particularly successful in the manufacture of nickel, nickel-iron and non-ferrous alloys. The new “top secret” technology used can produce what conventional rolling techniques took six weeks to produce but on a small scale. The new company will be based in a new factory at Rhydymwyn, near Mold. (Source: Gwynne Hughes report, Flintshire Chronicle 198O)